Pain below the shoulder blades

May 9, 2006 at 04:07 AM · Hello,

I started playing in Dec '05. I started playing for 30 mins a day and worked up to 60 mins a day. I've been practicing daily this way since then.

Within the last month, I started experiencing a burning muscle sensation below the shoulder blades - but higher than lower back. It radiates from each side of the spine and goes up and outward. It feels like like muscle strain/burn. It typically starts 20 mins or so into practicing.

My teacher and I have stopped my progression until we can sort this problem out. I've been practicing pieces I already know - to reduce my overall strain.

So far, I've come up with a couple of possbile sources. I noticed that I had a tendency to push out my chest a bit (opposite of slouch) possibly to hold the violin up. Second, I noticed that my neck and head aren't really relaxed on the violin. I think I've fixed most of this, but alas the back strain continues.

I know many of you have in depth knowledge of violinist physiology (hehe), so I thought I'd ask.

Thanks for any help - in advance.


Replies (4)

May 9, 2006 at 05:35 AM · Greetings,

I suggest you spend at least 20 minutes a day in the semi supine position. That is lie on your back with your knees at a 90 degre eangle and your feet flat on the floor. But a small book under your head and let your arm slie relaxed at your sides. As you lie like this you will feel gravity pulling all the back muscles down towards the earth and your whole body begins to relax. Even if it doiesn`t solve the problem it will improve your health.....

Try keeping in mind the maxim that `the instrument adapts to the body and not vice versa.` You must establish a natural and fre epsoition for your body and don`t change it when the violin is up. If you cannot support the insturment without changing your body then you need to rethink the set up of chin rest, shoulder rets and whatever.

Of course, you stretch before and after you preactice , yes? ;)

Incidentally, it is not necessray to practice for a slong as an hour and many great teacher shave reocmmended less done over more time. Auer - 40 minutes. Galamian 50-min. There is something masochistic and obsessive about practicing x number of hours that we violinists seem to use unconsciusly but it is a useless unit of time for concentration and the physique and the sooner it is consigned ot the dustbin of history the better,



May 10, 2006 at 07:46 PM · Thanks Buri,

I've been dissecting my position and hold all week. Back to basics. I've found that I:

1. squeeze the neck/fingerboard,

2. squeeze the violin with my neck (shoulder rest was too high),

3. tighten my left arm,

4. stiffen my back, and

5. recent stresses at work have made me that much more tight all over.

Last night, I spent three hours (not continuous) using to walk me through the basics again. By the end of the night I had a very loose comfortable position. I could easily do scales, position exercises and very basic arpeggio exercises with no tension (very slow - monitoring my whole body). As soon as I started playing Minuet No 1 and especially Minuet No 2 (Suzuki Vol 1), the tension returned quickly and with a vengance - I had to stop playing within minutes and stop for the night (it was probably time anyway).

So, I think I have a viable solution. It's going to take a while to rebuild to the same point I was - but without tension.

I'll be adding more stretching (given the stress at work) and the extra lying down exercise you mentioned - I used to just lie on my bed for a bit prior to practicing - to relax. A harder surface might be more effective.

I'll also take things back for a bit and start the book over, but this time focusing on playing without tension - slowly rebuilding to the Minuets. So long as my teacher agrees with this approach...

Am I on the right track?

May 10, 2006 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

1) yes, you need to lie on the floor.

2) The simplest exercise for monitoring the body may be to start with the left foot and notice all the feelings in it and what it is touching. Then do the righ. Then compare the two. Then do the left lower leg. The right lower leg. Then compare the two. Work up the body in this way while keeping awarness of the whole. It shoudl take between three and five minutes.

3) It is quite possible you are not breathing in the Minuet. In general, the in breath is on the up bow but don`t think about ti too much.

4) Try playing bent over at the waist (actually the hip joints) as far as you can.

5) Do a very simple exercise in which the case is held directly over the body by outstretched arms. Walk around the room rytmically. Put the case down and immediately pick up the instrument. Fell how light is is and how relaxed you are.

6) Dont just play through the Minuet again and again. this is nto pratice. A few minutes deciding what the problem is is worth ten hours practice. Once you have decided on the problem separate the hands. If you are practicng both togtehr then the frustration you are experiencing forces you into tension. Even the greatest player spractice their pieces using open strings so that they know exactly what the bow is doing before they add the left hand.

Hope this helps,


May 11, 2006 at 03:37 AM · Thanks again Buri,

I'll be implementing your suggestions this week. I just came back from my lesson and my teacher was impressed by my progess in identifying the problems. She also made a few suggestions. She's been very supportive and patient with me in this problem.

Tonight we took a break and slowed down the Minuet and took it by phrases and added lyricism I had complained that my playing sounded very mechanical since I don't have vibrato in my toolset yet. It was a nice change and I'm happier with the sound of my playing.

Thanks to you and my teacher, with a bit of time, I'll be well on my way again.


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